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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 16
David Dorey
December 14, 2008
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Matt Cassell 236 4
Tarvaris Jackson 166 4
Philip Rivers 358 2
David Garrard 269 2
Tony Romo 251 2
Running Backs Yards TD
Pierre Thomas 146 2
Michael Turner 182 1
Tashard Choice 143 1
Dominic Rhodes 116 1
Steven Jackson 127 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Andre Johnson 207 1
Steve Smith 165 1
Randy Moss 67 2
Dennis Northcutt 127 1
Antonio Bryant 108 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Dallas Clark 142 1
Tony Gonzalez 62 1
David Martin 66 1
Antonio Gates 78 0
John Carlson 76 0
Placekickers XP FG
Rob Bironas 0 4
John Kasay 3 3
Olindo Mare 2 3
Mason Crosby 1 3
Rian Lindell 3 2
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
NY Jets 1 3 4
Minnesota 1 4 2
Seattle 1 1 2
Chicago 1 1 2
Arizona 1 3 1

Week 15 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Reggie Bush - Sprained knee
James Hardy - Sprained knee
Steven Jackson - Possible concussion
Chris Chambers - Neck injury

Where'd he go?

Week 15 is always a critical week because of fantasy playoffs and there were nine running backs who made the most out of the carries they were given. It was long distance Sunday since these tailbacks all turned in long gainers to include Pierre Thomas (42 yards), Steve Slaton (34), Marshawn Lynch (35), Leon Washington (47), Adrian Peterson (32), Sammy Morris (35), Lamont Jordan (49), DeAngelo Williams (56) and Tashard Choice (38). Nothing like seeing fantasy points roll past on a single play.

Little safety help over here?

Let My People Play!

With only two weeks left to play, there are only four teams that have clinched playoff spots but going into week 16 every team has something to play for. There is no reason why any team would want to rest players in week 16 and therefore adversely affect fantasy championships. Those of you still using week 17 won't likely be that lucky of course.

AFC

East - Top three teams all won and NYJ, NE and MIA are all 9-5. Left to play is NE (ARI, @BUF), NYJ (@SEA, MIA) and MIA (@KC, @NYJ). Could still be anyone's.

North - PIT has clinched division but still has shot at #1 seed and play @TEN and CLE. This could potentially be the AFC Championship game played early. The Ravens lost on Sunday and at 9-5 are in a race for the "odd-man out" in the AFC East for the final wildcard.

South - TEN has clinched division and at 12-2 are still in the lead for the #1 seed but must beat PIT next week to ensure it. IND is 10-4 and with @JAC and TEN left should be a lock to win the first wildcard and a #5 berth.

West - Denver has surprisingly not secured the West yet but with BUF next should wrap it up before playing in SD the last week in what should be a meaningless game. SD is only 6-8 and yet are still in contention for the division in theory anyway.

NFC

East - Giants have already clinched division but are now tied with CAR for the #1 seed. The Cowboys have the lead for a wildcard at 9-5 but have BAL and @PHI left to play and no margin for error.

North - Vikes (9-5) remain in front of the Bears (8-6). Vikings end up with ATL and NYG while the Bears go against GB and @HOU. These teams split wins so this could go down to the final week.

South - Panthers (11-3) have not even clinched division yet and end @NYG and @NO. But are also tied with NYG for the #1 seed. The Buccaneers and Falcons are locked at 9-5 and are in wildcard contention at the least. The Bucs will likely win out with just SD and OAK left while the Falcons have @MIN and STL.

West - Cardinals have clinched and at 8-6 are probably a lock for the #4 seed.

Still pretty open for only two weeks left and the top teams of the Giants and Titans both lost and both look less formidable than they have been. But above all else - no players should be rested by their teams in week 16 and all fantasy football champs this week get it with all players available to them.

10 Random Thoughts

1. There were four teams that clinched their division and three of those lost this week. The four best teams went.250 on the day? I am a big proponent of seasons within seasons meaning that no team remains the same over three months and that all that really matters is getting into the playoffs and peaking at that time. The wildcard Giants of 2007 were perhaps the best example of that many years. But watching the Cardinals, Giants and Titans lose on Sunday really makes you question where these teams are at right now. The Titans just looked sloppy and the running game was lethargic which is the heart and soul of the offense. The Giants in Dallas looked more like a 3-11 team than a 11-3 team. If the loss of Burress and Jacobs did that, then the Giants have already peaked and now get to be the reverse of what they were in 2007.

2. The Panthers have won their last three games, are tied with the Giants at 11-3 for best record in the NFC and are dominating lately. You want a team that looks like it is peaking ar the right time? The 1-2 punch of Williams and Stewart rushing can be devastating and Steve Smith is pound for pound perhaps the best wideout you have ever seen. The defense has been better earlier in the year but this week will be fascinating since the Panthers play in New York against the Giants in what will be the #1 seed battle. And I like the Panthers already in that game.

3. You could argue that Priest Holmes was another recent case of a back-up player turning into a super-back but there had at least been more to go on with him when he moved to the Chiefs from the Ravens. Michael Turner was just a relief player behind a very durable LaDainian Tomlinson. He looked good in relief but so do many running backs (think Troy Hambrick). Turner is now #2 in the NFL in rushing yardage with 1421 yards. He'll be challenged in MIN this week but the season finale against the Rams will undoubtedly be more fodder for stats. Makes you wonder what his role would have been had he stayed in San Diego this year.

4. Tashard Choice has not only looked outstanding in the last two weeks, he did it against the Steelers and Giants. What's going to happen in 2009 when Felix Jones is healthy as well? Barber remains the starter but would the Cowboys opt for a three-headed monster? Can you leave one of them on the bench? Something to consider in dynasty leagues...

5. The Lions were tied with the Colts at 21-21 before the Colts scored ten more fourth quarter points and thereby prevent the world from spinning off its axis and out into space like a celestial game of 8-ball. I still think it can happen, the Lions will finally assume the lowest of low points in going 0-16 on the regular season. RIght now they are tied with the Buccaneers who also went 0-14 in one season but then they were done. We have two more chances for the Lions to set the all-time losing streak within a season. The Saints go to Detroit no doubt terrified of being "it" and if they can avoid it and win, then the Packers host the Lions and can hopefully end what could be a five game losing streak for themselves.

6. Nice to see the tight end position completely fall apart outside of Dallas Clark (12-142, 1 TD) and Tony Gonzalez (6-62, 1 TD). Because David Martin also scored a touchdown. And... no other tight end scored. Last year in this week there were 11 touchdowns but this year? A paltry three scores and only seven players with more than 50 yards.

7. Talk about revenge as a motivator. Randy Moss faced his old team of the Raiders and ended up with two touchdowns and 67 yards on five receptions. Hardly that shocking but what about Lamont Jordan running 12 times for 97 yards and one touchdown? Previous to that game, Jordan had only 28 carries for 127 yards and no scores and had missed half the season injured. Have to admit, there is something very motivating about Al Davis... just not for his current players. Only seems to apply to ex-players.

8. I have to comment on one player that has pretty much always slipped beneath the radar but finally - this is a guy you want to have on your team. I'm talking about Antonio Bryant. The buy that bounced from Dallas to Cleveland to San Francisco and then was out of football last year. And now in 2008, he has already produced a career best season of 74 catches for 1044 yards and six touchdowns. Four of those scores came in the last three weeks. He had 200 yards in Carolina last week and 108 yards in Atlanta on Sunday. Not shabby for a player that no one wanted in 2007. Gruden likes reclamation projects. Say like.. oh... maybe Michael Vick next summer?

9. I like your surreal "am I high or is this real" sort of football games as much as the next guy. How else can you explain how Tarvaris Jackson can throw four touchdowns in one game? It was Swedish art flick weird. Jackson started 12 games in 2007 and only produced nine passing touchdowns. He had never thrown for more than two scores in a game. In the four games he had played in this season, he only had one passing touchdown. Four touchdowns? One of the announcers after the game asked how Brad Childress could bench Jackson even when Gus Frerotte is healthy. I'll tell you how - he realizes he is Tarvaris Jackson who just produced a season's worth of scoring in just one game.

10. The Redskins have certainly spanned the spectrum this season. They were 6-2 on the season and new HC Jim Zorn looked like he was turning around the franchise. And after running Clinton Portis like he was a rented mule, he was finally dinged up enough to matter. And then the lack of a passing game started to hurt. Now the Skins are just 7-7 and coming off a loss in Cincinnati. It's like hearing that someone is tearing down a building to make room for a new one and finding out they just rebuilt what they already had in the first place.

Players that make me look forward to 2009

Pierre Thomas - Deuce McAllister is expected to be gone next year and Reggie Bush has hardly been a model of durability. And Thomas has been dynamic and makes the offense look better. He's about as good a runner as McAllister has been and he's almost as good as a receiver as Bush is. Thanks in part to yet another Bush injury, Thomas ran for 87 yards, added seven receptions for 59 yards and scored twice in Chicago. Seems likely he will be a steal in drafts next year.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart - Both these players have been so good recently that it looks possible next year that both will be taken as fantasy starters though Stewart may end up in RB3 territory. If this duo can just maintain what they have done this year it makes the Panthers' 2009 already look bright.

Randy Moss - We all knew he would step down from 2007 even before Brady was injured but he still has 10 touchdowns and will break 1000 yards this week or next needing just 92 yards. With Brady back, Moss is back to business and business has already been pretty good this year.

JaMarcus Russell - I can't wait to see what he is like with a new coaching staff and assumedly more overpaid free agents wideouts. Because he cannot be this bad and have been so coveted in the NFL draft. Maybe we will never know with him in Oakland, but so far this has been a monster bust. It has to get better. I think.

Huddle Player of the Week

Andre Johnson - The Texans would be much less were it not for their elite wideout of Johnson who was bottled up by the Titans for only 29 yards in the first meeting this year and then was instrumental in the upset on Sunday. It was a surprise to be sure given that he only had the two catches for 29 yards back in week three and had topped 100 yards in just one of the last six games but Johnson ended up with a career best 207 yards on 11 catches against the Titans defense and scored once. No question who the stud is in Houston.

Salute!

Drama 101 - Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Tarvaris Jackson 236 4 QB Jay Cutler 172 1
RB Lamont Jordan 97 1 RB Reggie Bush 46 0
RB Tashard Choice 143 1 RB Chris Johnson 67 0
WR Dennis Northcutt 136 1 WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh 19 0
WR James Jones 132 0 WR Anquan Boldin 34 0
WR Jerheme Urban 82 1 WR Brandon Marshall 48 0
PK John Kasay 3 XP 3 FG PK Neil Rackers 2 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 126

Huddle Fantasy Points = 32

Sunday's Couch Commentary

Some upsets this week with the Bengals beating the Skins, the Titans losing in Houston and the Vikes laying down the law in Arizona. Six games ended with neither team scoring more than 20 points. The Patriots were the only team with the decency to run up the score mainly just so Randy Moss and Lamont Jordan could moon Al Davis in a meaningful way. Fantasy playoffs are in full swing this week and we saw some big games out of stud wideouts and running backs.

There were a lot of close games this week. Ten games were decided by a touchdown or less. Four ended by three point margins. The best high scoring and yet close game was probably the Saints in Chicago but that happened back on Thursday.

Losing is never fun even if you made the playoffs and most teams did not. But it is a part of the game and in some cases it seems unavoidable. Just to make you feel better if you just were on the smaller end of a game score, I am giving out two games as Games-O-The-Week. Talk about heart breaking destiny.

San Diego 22, Kansas City 21

The Chiefs were only 2-11 coming into the game and needed a win just to preserve sanity. The Chargers barely beat the Chiefs 20-19 in San Diego this year. So there were smiles a'plenty on the sidelines when the Chiefs had Tyler Thigpen run in a touchdown in the third quarter to go up 21-3. An 18 point lead, at home, what's the worst that could happen?

Well, the next series had the Chargers drive the field and finally get a touchdown from LaDainian Tomlinson for a 21-10 deficit. But the two teams kept trading fruitless seasons and punts until the Chargers took over on their own 11 yard line with just 4:55 left to play. They drove the field eventually and scored a 4-yard touchdown via a pass to Malcolm Floyd. But it took 15 plays and brought the game clock down to 1:19 left to play. Plus the two point conversion attempt was unsuccessful so the score was 16-21.

Of course there was an onsides kick and this was one of those "28% successful" because Dwayne Bowe jumped up and had it temporarily before the mass of players collided and it ended up with the Chargers on the SD 39-yard line. Knowing that the Chargers had to have a long completion, it was somewhat surprising to see Vincent Jackson wide open for a 42-yard completion. On third and one with 40 seconds left to play, Rivers found Jackson again and completed the 10-yard touchdown pass. The two point conversion failed once again.

The Chiefs got a kick return to the KC 46- yard line with 31 seconds left. A five yard completion and a spike. A 12 yard completion to Gonzalez and as time was expiring, the defenders had a delay of game since they would not allow the referee to get back up which tacked on five more yards and stopped the clock. That gave the Chiefs a shot at a 50-yard field goal to win the game in an exciting fashion for the hometown fans. And Connor Barth was wide left. Why? Because the Chiefs were destined to lose.

Buffalo 27, NY Jets 31

Unlike the Chiefs, the Bills started the season out as a top team in the AFC East. They were already 4-1 by their bye week. But it's all unraveled since then and the Bills had lost six of their last seven games and only scored three points in each of the last two games. Bad karma and nothing seems to work anymore.

So it was with much excitement when they were suddenly competitive in New York. Marshawn Lynch ran for 127 yards on 21 carries. Entering the fourth quarter, the Bills trailed only 20-21. Then Losman threw an interception at his own 20-yard line and the Jets ended up getting a field goal out of it for a 24-20 lead. The ensuing kickoff was returned for a 100 yard touchdown by the Bills and ... no wait... Offensive holding. Bummer.

Series ended eventually with a punt with 9:28 left to play. The Jets did nothing and punted it back and the Bills then started on the BUF 36-yard line. Losman then threw four straight completions and Lynch tacked on a nine-yard run to reach the Jets 11- yard line. On the next play, Fred Jackson rushed in a score with only 5:39 left to play and a 27-24 lead.

The Jets went three and out so the Bills took over on their own 10-yard line after the punt. With 2:11 left to play, Lynch converted a third and one for a first down. Couple more of those and we go home with a win.

But on second down Losman was sacked and lost the fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Shaun Ellis of the Jets. All they had to do is make one more first down and drain the clock but instead Losman lost the handle and the Jets were up 27-24.

To make insult even more injurious, the Jets got the ball back with 1:47 left to play and immediately Losman threw his second interception. The Bills used up their timeouts but held the Jets to three and out. WIth the ball back and 1:17 left to play from the BUF 26-yard line, they still had a chance to tie the game with a field goal or win with a touchdown.

They only reach midfield before time ran out on the third interception of Losman. The natural order of 2008 was maintained and the Bills lost. In the post game interviews, even Brett Favre seemed surprised and had trouble explaining how they won.

Because sometimes winning just is not in the cards. When you win, it feels great and it brings you back. When you lose - not much fun for the moment but you know what? You had a damn fine season to get to where you were and you should congratulate your opponent because that's going to be you the next time. If you win, nothing wrong with congratulating your opponent either and if you know him personally you have a whole year to razz him anyway.

We play the game to play the game. Winning is just a good aspect of it. But just playing is even better.

Now get back to work...

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